Life with expectancy

return

The closing question for my small group’s discussion last night was, “How would your life be different (practically and specifically) if you lived each day with a continual expectancy of Christ’s return?”  It is a convicting question, to be sure.  We could get into the Biblical truths around the topic, like the fact that the Gospel has not yet gone to every tribe, and we have not yet seen the tribulation and Anti Christ – therefore we know that Christ’s return will not be today…but the temptation is to let that be an excuse to live without urgency.  What if our attitude, instead of complacency, was that nothing in this world satisfies – netflix, movies, music, money – and we are all headed into eternity at an alarming rate, and Jesus gives us abundant life both here and eternally?  What if we considered ourselves part of the task force that was completing the Great Commission to see the Gospel taken to even tribe, tongue and nation – so that the end can come?  What if we loved God and took Him seriously?

We all know in our hearts and spirits that the pleasures and treasures of this world do not satisfy, yet we continually turn back to them.  What if we set out to fight those temptations and natural desires?  What if we feed our Spirits a steady diet of intimate time with God, receiving true pleasure and peace, and allowing Him to guide us throughout our days?  Isaac Watts is one of my favorite hymnist, and he penned these beautiful words:

“Early my God, without delay, I haste to seek your face.
My thirsty spirit fades away without your cheering grace.
My spirit toils with this life’s gloom and fights to stay the course.
Remind me of that Heavenly hour when you first called me yours.

Early my God, without delay, before tomorrow’s dawn,
Let trumpets sound the vict’ry tune because you have returned.
Not life itself with all her joys will tempt my spirit move,
My maker and my helping hand, all I need is you.”

 – Isaac Watts

Do you wake up thirsty for God, and turn to Him immediately when you wake up?  Do you find pleasure in being reminded of your conversion experience?  Does He sustain you through life’s gloom and trials?  Is He all you need?

Let’s live for something bigger and greater than momentary pleasure.  Let’s live for Christ’s return.  Let’s know Him, let’s love Him, let’s proclaim the gospel so that others can come to know and love Him too – while there is still time.  And let us long for the day that He returns.  Not only to receive the benefit of entering into eternity, but to finally be in the presence of Jesus, our Savior.

Dear Church, missions is not for your own discipleship.

missionsbanquet

As Jesus was completing His work on the Earth and ascending back to Heaven, He gave us the “Great Commission”, the final command, the last words, by which we should all – as Christians – be living our lives:

And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.  Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

– Matt 28.18-20

It is God’s plan that people from every nation, tribe and language will come to saving faith in Jesus through the preaching of the Gospel (Rev 5.9).  In fact, Jesus promised us that this will happen before the end will come (Matt 24.14).  If you are a Christian, you have been commanded to make disciples, and to be a part of disciple-making in every nation.  Yes, that does imply that there are some who must remain in predominantly Christian communities to engage and teach the younger generations, but it has been rightly said that we must be confident of our calling – by God – to stay, if we dare to not go.  In evaluating the missionary life, we today often expect those who would go to have a profound testimony and conviction of their calling, but Jesus has called every believer.  We do not get to pick and choose if it applies to us.

The early church defaulted into cross-cultural missions by the very nature of the persecution and dispersion they experienced.  Their lives were being threatened, so they ran.  When they settled in new communities and new countries, they shared the Gospel, and the church exploded.  We also see examples of intentional mission efforts from people like Paul, Barnabas, Silas and John Mark.  Throughout the Middle Ages, the Arab Conquests and the Crusades, there was some missionary effort but the Church found itself in a difficult spot, being united as the Catholic Church which was largely political.  After the Reformation began and people found faith on a personal level, modern missions was born through people like William Carey.

For centuries, missions was a lifetime and sobering commitment.  Missionaries had to travel by ship to their host countries, many lost wives and children to disease and often times they would pack their belongings in a coffin – planning on being buried abroad.  Some did travel home to raise support or awareness, but it was not a simple airplane ride, and trips home were rare.

But suddenly we are living in a world where travel abroad is accessible and easy.  In 24 hours you can find yourself at pretty much any location on the globe, for a relatively low price.  And with this phenomenon has come the birth and explosion of short-term missions.  Many people will give their vacation time, and many students seek to spend part of their summer break “doing” missions.  Unfortunately, because of the accessibility, and because of our narcissistic culture, these short-term mission trips – and consequently long-term missions have become a “discipleship tool” for the Church.

We send our youth so that they can see the poverty abroad and come home thankful for what they have.

We send out younger believers so that they can have two weeks of intense Spiritual connection with the Lord.

The team building required before the trip, the required daily devotional as a group, and the outreach tools developed will unify our body, will develop a passion in our Church, and will take us to the next level with God.

I have heard mission agencies, pastors and parents say, “We pray that our people (or students) will be changed” by going on this trip.  (The prayer factor makes it sound more Spiritual.)  Their goal in missions is to make us more “thankful for what we have”, and to disciple the short-term missionaries.

But here’s the deal folks.  People around the world are not tourist attractions.  They are living, breathing, souls who are headed straight to Hell without salvation through the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  There are over 6,600 people groups (entire nations that are identifiable by a unique language and culture) who are less than 2% Christian.  That means that for every one hundred people within the nation, there is only one or no Christian.  Nearly half of those people groups are completely unengaged.  This means that there is no Christian in the community – no missionary, no national, no radio broadcast; nothing.  There is no way that these people will stumble across the Gospel.  Almost all of these unreached people groups are in the 10/40 window:  that region from 10 degrees to 40 degrees latitude north of the Equator from West Africa to the Far East.  You can see the map here.

The call of Jesus is to go and make disciples of these people.  These millions of people who have never heard about Jesus Christ.  These millions of people who will die and go to Hell unless someone goes to tell them the Gospel.  Missions is giving of one’s life to cross culture and language to take the Gospel to these people.  A short-term mission trip is evangelical in nature.  Any other trip:  medical, building homes/schools/orphanages, educational, providing clean water, agricultural, etc. is not a mission trip.  It is a humanitarian trip.  Yes, it is a good thing, but it is not focused on people’s eternal need and ultimately does them no Spiritual or eternal good.

And quite frankly, the reality is that going out for two weeks or even six months will not make disciples.  You might make converts, with the help of translators and the direction of the missionary on the ground, but if you go in on your own without such direction and assistance, you will not even be able to communicate – let alone lead people to Jesus.  Discipleship is a process that took Jesus three years with the original twelve.  We can expect it to take about that long – or longer – with new converts both here in the United States and abroad.  Therefore if we desire to obey Jesus’ commandment in the short-term method, we must make sure that we find either a missionary or a national Church who can utilize our efforts on the ground as part of their long-term work.  They will be the ones doing the discipleship.

We must also be aware of the fact that most of the unreached and unengaged people groups in the world live in regions that are hostile to the Gospel.  There might be an appeal in your church or community to go into a hard area, but if we endeavor to take students or immature believers into a nation where it is illegal to evangelize or convert, then we are putting everyone at risk unnecessarily.  The national partners, the missionaries and the local church are risking their lives to do what they do, and a culturally insensitive or unaware foreigner could derail and endanger everything.  Therefore, when we consider engaging such a people group and partnering with missionaries, we should intentionally send our best, our wisest, our most mature.

Missions as a whole is the endeavor to glorify God by obeying the Great Commission by crossing cultures and language to make disciples of all nations.  We, as the Church, should be regularly sending people abroad.  We all have been called to this effort, and we all must examine our lives and be confident that God has called us to stay home, if we are not going.  And if we are not going, we still must be making disciples here at home.  And part of our discipleship here at home is teaching others how to make disciples themselves.  Many of our youth programs include a summer camp, a winter retreat, and an abundance of other activities.  But we should very carefully weigh our youth “mission trip” activity.  If you have mature youth who will cross cultures to share the Truth about Jesus, then absolutely send them.  But your goal should never be their discipleship.  If you want to teach them how to share the Gospel, take them one-on-one to the mall and show them how to talk to a stranger.  Reserve your efforts in a closed country for the most mature and sensitive in your congregation.  If you want to expose them to poverty, take them to the soup kitchen and let them interact with the homeless in your city.  Because physical poverty is not the real issue here.  There are countless churches around the world, in fact, who pray for us and are broken for us because we have too much stuff.  We are too comfortable.  We are too self-reliant, and therefore we never depend on God.  When was the last time you trusted God for your next meal?  We have much to learn from them.

You will be changed when you cross cultures and see how believers live in a different and oppressive society.  You will be changed when you see true poverty and genuine need.  You will be changed anytime you take two weeks to intentionally walk with God and ask Him to direct your every step, have a daily devotional with other believers, break out of your routine and share the Gospel continually.  This is a beautiful and wonderful side effect of getting out of your comfort zone and going on a mission trip.  But this cannot be our goal, our goal must be glorifying God by reaching the lost.  Beware of the temptation to use foreigners to your benefit.  Beware of the temptation to march your people amongst the lost so that they can appreciate what they have and glorify their two-week endeavor.  Focus your people on the need and enable them to truly help taking the Gospel to those who need it most.  Make it about God first and the lost second.

Are you saved?

saved

What is it that consumes your thought life, your monies, your energy?  Jesus said that He came to “seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19.10), and as He left the world He gave us the Great Commission:  one last command that should be the goal of our lives – to make disciples of all the nations (Matt 28.18-20).  So if Jesus’ intention is to save, and His greatest desire for us is to be involved in His salvation process of the lost, then we can rightly judge our position with the Lord by assessing our hearts on the topic.

“Have you no wish for others to be saved? Then you’re not saved yourself, be sure of that!”

– Charles Spurgeon

When Jesus first returned to Heaven there was an urgency amongst believers.  They believed that Jesus would return while they were still alive.  Thus they were selling all of their possessions, they were giving to the poor, they were working as a community to provide food, housing, and care for everyone so as to win as many as possible.  They were thinking of the world to come.  They were focused on eternity.  They were waiting for Jesus to return and planning for the next life, not this one.

Jesus saves out of love.  And He commanded us to love our neighbors as ourselves.  Therefore, what is the most loving thing that we can do for one another?  For our neighbors?  Pointing them to Jesus.  If we do not share the Gospel, if we do not warn our neighbors and friends of the coming judgment, we do not love them.  And if we do not love them, then our very salvation is in question.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.  The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.

– 1 John 4.7-8

Do you think this is an over-application of this passage?  Then continue reading what John had to say:

By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him.  In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.  Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

– 1 John 4.8-11

If we can look at our neighbor and not care about His eternity, then we do not love Him, and Scripture teaches us that such a heart is not born again.  If we can look at our neighbor and affirm his destiny for Hell with the thought, “He deserves it”, then we do not grasp our own sinfulness and from what we have been saved, and we are not born again.  If we are apathetic about eternity, we have not been saved.  We cannot know God and love God and not long for eternity, grieve over sin, and long for others to be saved.

It was so important to Jesus that He died for it.  How important is it to you?

We live in a placating society in which we take drugs, seek counseling, and enforce the government to affirm our every decision and desire in order to fix a heart problem.  We are guilty, we are dissatisfied, and we are worthy of Hell.  We think that if we tell one another that “you deserve to be happy”, that it is our right to pursue happiness, that we are not that bad that we will feel better about ourselves.  But if you feel a twinge of conviction about sin, about apathy, about your lifestyle, do not seek out a counselor who will point out your strengths.  Seek out the Scripture and let God do surgery.  God can change us, He can sanctify us, and He can prepare us to meet him.  He can use us to accomplish His plan of salvation in other’s lives.  So today, let us take seriously that prodding of the Holy Spirit, set our minds on things above, and let us get busy about making disciples of all the nations:  loving our neighbors.

The Final Report.

don't waste your life

What are you doing with your life?  Are you on the path to financial security?  Do you have your 401k set up, putting in the max every year so that you can retire comfortably?  Are you paying off your house and saving up your pennies so that one day, when you are too tired to want to do anything, you will be able to do whatever you want?  I am a 32 year old newly wed who lives in Denver, CO and this affords me a unique opportunity to watch a micro sect of our society closely:  the millennials trying to make sense of life.

I am from the midwest, and most of my high-school and college friends are married, ten years into their careers, with a few kids, a house and a dog.  But cities like Denver attract those who have most fully bought into the pervasive mindset of our generation that our education demands that we be rewarded with high paying jobs, and these jobs are those that have meaning and purpose.  Those whom we idolize the most are those who were able to innovate and/or create a solution to a world problem, and get rich doing so.  We have spent 16-20 years of our lives in school learning how to be critical thinkers who value our own opinions, and we want to be clever and get paid well for being clever.  Now, as we rapidly approach middle-age, our crises will be based more on the question, “Have I done anything meaningful?” rather than the sadness of having missed out on life.

We will have mid-life crises.  They will just look different from that baby-boomers’ crises.  Sure, some of us will divorce and marry a young person, some of us will buy expensive toys, but many of us will quit our jobs and start a new business, get involved in philanthropy and look for our position to change and impact the world.

“The long, dull, monotonous years of middle-aged prosperity or middle-aged adversity are excellent campaigning weather for the devil.”

– C. S. Lewis

But while our trials and struggles might be fueled by different passions, this is still an extremely dangerous time.  As we begin to grapple with our mortality and the meaning of life, we will try to fill it up with self-affirming achievements.  But as Christians, we know that when we die we will meet our maker and we will give an account for everything that we have done:

So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God.

– Rom 14.12

“[God] will render to each one according to his deeds.”

– Rom 2.6

And if our goal, as Christians, is to hear God say,

“His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’

– Matt 25.23

then we can evaluate every action that we do here on the Earth by this simple question,

Is this glorifying to God?

Scripture gives us a few broad outlines for our daily tasks.  For instance, Paul teaches us that the man who does not provide for his family is the worst kind of man out there:

“But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

– 1 Tim 5.8

This does not mean that you have to be the most wealthy family on the block, but it does mean that men should not be lazy and should be diligent to provide for and take care of their responsibilities.  This is honoring to God.  We also know what God defines as sin, and we know how Christians are supposed to act.  It is rooted in love for God and for our neighbors (Matt 22.37-39), and it is expressed in controlling our tongues (James 1, 4) and controlling our actions (Eph 4-5).

And Jesus gave us a singular commandment as He was leaving the world to return to Heaven:

And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.  Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

– Matt 28.18-20

Are you making disciples?  Wherever you are, even if you are squarely planted in the Bible belt, are you introducing people to Jesus and teaching them how to obey Him?  Jesus gave us an assignment, and He will be the judge when we reach eternity’s gate.  Will you pass?  Will you be affirmed, “Well done”?  Or will He say, “I gave you one thing to do and you never did it!”?

“If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.”

– C. S. Lewis

It is good for us to long to have meaning in our lives.  My generation has been groomed to desire purpose and satisfaction in meaningful work.  But let us be mindful to harness that energy and passion to focus on the glory of God and not our own personal legacy.  Because we will all die and we will all be forgotten.  But what we have done in obedience to God and unto His glory alone will last.  Aim not to leave a legacy for mankind to venerate you, but for God to be honored.

What report do you want to give when you meet Him, face to face?

Election and Wisdom

growth

What is the primary reason that you do not talk about Jesus with people – specifically non Christians?  Most would answer some variety of fear:  Fear of rejection, fear of not knowing what to say, fear of the topic, etc.  Are you afraid that people will not believe if you tell them about Jesus?  We try to pump ourselves up in a variety of ways when we consider evangelism or just making Jesus known, but the reality is that Jesus and the Gospel, to those who are not chosen, is foolishness.

“For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”

– 1 Cor 1.22-24

To the Jews, who had the history of the Old Testament Law, Jesus was (and is) a stumbling block.  They understood in part that they were looking for a Savior, but when He came they did not recognize Him because they did not exactly for whom they were looking.  Jesus is a stumbling block for them to come to salvation, as they still are waiting for a savior.  The Gentiles, everybody else, hear the story of redemption and consider it – naturally – foolishness.  So, in short, everyone who is either a Jew or not a Jew will hear the story of Jesus and in and of themselves will hear it as foolishness.  They will reject it.

Does that give you hope?

It gives me hope.  Because the conclusion of the verse is that to all who are called, Jews or everyone else, Christ is the “power of God and the wisdom of God”.

It can sound a bit cliche these days to remind ourselves that when we talk about Jesus and people mock us or do not want to hear about it, that they are rejecting Jesus and not us.  It is true, and it should give us comfort to remember that Jesus was hated and He promises that those who hate Him will (and should) hate us.

“If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you.  If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.  Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also.”

– John 15.18-20

Therefore, we should begin to develop thicker skin.  Jesus promises that the world will hate His servants, and people who look like Jesus.  If no one is hating you, then you might check yourself to see if you are standing for truth and telling people about Jesus.  Now, I am not saying that we should be obnoxious, and make ourselves hate-able, rather I am saying that the Gospel is so offensive to people, that when we live how Jesus lived, when we speak how Jesus spoke, and when we share the good news of the Gospel, it is offensive in and of itself.  No one wants to hear that they are wicked and that they deserve to go to Hell for their sins.  But that is what the Bible says, and if we do not know our current state apart from Jesus, then we do not know from what we need saving.

But what I find particularly glorious about this passage in 1 Corinthians is that the contrast is painted between wisdom and folly.  People can understand and articulate the outlines of the Gospel without knowing it as wisdom.  It makes logical sense, and some can portray it as mythology or as a “great story”, but only those who have been chosen find it as wisdom and power.  Clearly, by this teaching, we see that not everyone is called.  It is a supernatural ability to love and believe the Gospel as truth, wisdom and power.

So why does this give me hope in evangelism?  Simply this:  I do not have to get someone from one camp to the other.  I do not have to take the one who finds Jesus as a stumbling block or foolishness and convince him that Jesus crucified is the power and wisdom of God.  Now, there are some who will not hear and believe immediately, and there are some who will know the truth of the Gospel and believe year and decades later.  This does not mean that they went from the unchosen camp to the chosen camp, it means that God had a plan and timing for their conversion.

In short, it is our responsibility to share, and it is God’s responsibility to call, save, and bring about growth.

“I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth.  So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth.”

– 1 Cor 3.6-7

We know that God has chosen people from every tribe, tongue, and nation.  There are people who will believe in every corner of the Earth.  And until there are believers in every people group, Jesus will not return to bring about the end of the age.  But, He has already set these people aside.  It is only our job to go out there and tell them!  That is why Jesus said,

And He was saying to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”

– Luke 10.2

The Spirit has already prepared hearts to hear the Truth!  The harvest is plentiful.  The fields are white.  When we get out and start talking about Jesus, there will be many who say it is foolishness and stumble over Jesus, but there will be those who are ready to hear it and who hear the wisdom and glory in the Gospel.  So get out there and start talking about Jesus.  He promised us that people will hate us for talking about Him and acting like Him, so let it roll off your back when people turn down your invitation to believe.  And as you continue sharing, you will find that there are some out there who are waiting to hear and who are ready to believe.  It’s our job, people.  When we get to Heaven, let’s not stand before the judge having not done the primary thing that He told us to do.

Obey God, and leave the consequences to Him.

decision

Sometimes when we are left looking at our lives at the moment of decision or crisis, we weigh the consequences.  We list the pros, the cons, and we think about where each potential decision could lead us.  Sometimes we are deciding between right and wrong.  Sometimes we are deciding between good and best.  Sometimes we are just deciding.

God has given us a few, very clear, commandments (this list is not exhaustive):

1)  Die to ourselves daily and follow Him (Luke 9.23)
2)  Put away sin  (Rom 6)
3)  Go make disciples of all the nation (Matt 28.18-20)

So when we are making decisions we can ask ourselves things like, “Am I dying to myself by making this decision?”, “Is this sinful?” and “Is this decision helping or hindering me to make disciples?”.  We can always test and gauge ourselves by asking ourselves examination questions in our decision making and lifestyle choices.  God has been clear about what He wants from us and how we are to live.

Last night my dad was reflecting on a missionary family that he has known since early adulthood.  The man took his wife and son to Australia, living by raised support, and has been serving faithfully for over thirty years.  He is now in his late fifties, his wife has many medical issues, they are still serving and the man owns nothing.  My dad asked him if he had plans for retirement, and he said “I will keep working, I have nothing”.  He has no house, he has no money, he has nothing to “fall back on”, as we like to say.  He has given everything to God, and is trusting God to provide.

Charles Stanley encourages us simply:

Obey God and leave the consequences to Him.

God has promised us eternal life, to meet our needs, and to work all things together for His glory and our good.  Even if we do not see radical blessings in our lives as a result of obedience while we are here on the Earth, we know that our treasure and our reward is in Heaven.  So examine yourself, test your life, your decisions and your treasures against Scripture, and trust God for the outcome.  He is in control.  He will work it out.

“Come and See” OR “Go and Tell”?

go and tell

When Jesus came to the world, He radically transformed everything.  Pre-Jesus, the Hebrew people had been given structures for how to interact with God.  They were the chosen people, they had a central house of worship where God’s presence literally resided, and priests who served Him there.  The temple was ornate.  The kings were wealthy and wise.  King Solomon was the wealthiest and wisest ruler in history, and people (like the Queen of Sheba) came to see his wealth and hear his wisdom.  Outsiders were welcome to come and to incorporate themselves into Jewish tradition and faith, but it was a “Come and See” religion.

Jesus fulfilled the traditions and laws of the first covenant by being the only person to ever perfectly and completely obey the Law and then offered Himself as the final and perfect sacrifice for the sins of those who would believe.  With the completion of the Law everything changed.  God no longer maintains His presence in a temple.  There is no centralized city where the devout can more intimately meet Him.  God is no longer declaring Himself through an earthly kingdom and reign, but is establishing His eternal kingdom through the hearts of the devout worldwide.  It will take its fullest form in completion only on the New Earth.

Jesus transformed the faith from, “Come and See” to “Go and Tell”.  It used to be,

Come and see the works of God,
Who is awesome in His deeds toward the sons of men.

 – Ps 66.5

But now it is,

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

 – Matt 28.19-20

In general, Churches will affirm that they understand this mandate and structure that Jesus set up.  Most people will be able to name a handful of missionaries that they support, most churches will have a missions team, missions fund, and endeavor to be a part of the “kingdom work”.  But Jesus told us that you can test someone’s heart by examining their checkbook.  You can see what a Church considers important by a quick glance at their budget.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

 – Matt 6.19-21

I grew up in a church of several hundred people in Philadelphia, PA.  The church owned a building that was built in 1914 and modified throughout the years to keep up with growth, but the church as a whole had a conviction for the great commission:  to go and tell.  Professors from the Philadelphia Bible College were members, board members from a variety of missions organizations were members, and the church was thriving and alive.  The heart of the Church was “Go and Tell”.  So they paid two staff and 70% of the budget went to missions.  People were being called to the field.  The biggest week and event of the church life was missions week when missionaries from around the world came to inform and encourage the church of what was happening around the world.  Every member had a book full of missionaries’ prayer cards to lift up before God, and there were so many that every calendar date had three to four missionary families for which to pray.  Children were discipled.  The community was being reached.  Disciples were being made.  People were going and telling.

To be clear, this church was not perfect.  But their treasure was Jesus and obeying the great commission, and they put their money where their mouth was.

What is the treasure of your church?  What percentage of your budget is designated to feeding the poor, supporting missionaries and reaching the lost?  And what percentage of your budget is spent on making your church cool, hip, and well staffed?  The Barna Group research company ironically informs us that Millenials, those born from the mid 1980’s to early 2000’s – those for whom we are trying to make the church cool and appealing – by 67% would describe their ideal church as classic.  Only 33% would describe their ideal church as trendy.  77% chose a sanctuary and desired ornate stain-glassed windows with pulpits that were overtly Christian.  Trendy, non-traditional rooms leave the unchurched unsure of what the space is.  Most shockingly, 78% of Millenials said that they prefer a quiet and reverent church, not a loud church.

The sad reality here, however, is the fact that we are researching how to modify our churches to draw people in.  Our society is well-entertained and the church cannot (and most assuredly should not) try to compete.  Our music will not be as good as a concert.  Our preaching will not be as engaging or entertaining as a TV show or comedian.  But that is not the goal.  Our goal should be to worship God.  The church is a place to worship God, a house of prayer, a place to learn and grow and to be held accountable.  It is not a place to draw in and wow the lost.  We are commanded to go and tell, not to bring them in to see.

So how are you doing personally?  Are you going and telling?  Does your checkbook show your treasure to be making disciples of all nations?  How is your small group doing?  How is your church doing?  Let’s transform our perspectives and take the world by storm.  There are 6,552 unreached people groups (clusters of people who are unique in language and culture who are less than 2% Christian) around the world.  If just one mega church in the United States was mobilzed, we could have a missionary amongst every. single. one.  If just one family from only 6,552 churches in the United States was mobilized, we could have missionaries in every. single. one.  There are more than 50,000 Southern Baptist Churches alone.  How many churches does that mean there are of every denomination?  We must learn to go and tell.  Come and see is no more, Jesus has given us a calling.  Let’s be obedient.  Let us treasure that which God treasures.

You cannot introduce people to Jesus if you do not know Him yourself.

introduction

Jesus gave Christians very clear marching orders:

And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.  Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

– Matt 28.18-20

We can test our general obedience by asking ourselves if we are making disciples or not.  But We can only introduce people to Jesus if we know Him ourselves.  We can only teach people to know, love and obey Him as much as we know, love and obey Him.

Now, to be sure, there are times when God uses people who do not know Him to preach the Gospel.

“Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will; the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment.  What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice…”

– Phil 1.15-18

Paul was aware that there are people who preach the Gospel for the wrong motives, out of selfishness, envy and strife.  These people likely do not know Jesus.  But Paul does not care about their motives but rejoices simply that the Gospel is being proclaimed.  But these people cannot make disciples.  Preaching the Gospel leads to making converts, not making disciples.

To make a disciple is to teach one to observe all that Jesus has commanded us.  But we will only be able to teach that which we have developed as discipline for ourselves.  How do you have a daily quiet time?  How do you fight sin?  How do you encourage the body?  How do you share the Gospel?  How do you pray?  How do you love on God?

You will only be able to obey God by teaching others to do these things to the extent that you do them yourself.

So how are you doing today?

God will make a way.

God will make a way

We often find ourselves in situations where we are unsure of the answer, the way out, the solution.  There was a song made popular many years ago by Dan Moen called “God will make a way”.  I find myself humming that tune when I am discontented, when I long for more, when I do not know the best decision in a situation.  We claim verses like Jer. 29.11 (which were not written to us directly), believing that God will bring about our best and make everything turn out all right.

Yes, God absolutely will make everything turn out all right.

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

– Rom 8.28

But sometimes God’s “all right” is not how we would want it.  God has a purpose and a plan for humanity and all of the universe in existence, and that is to glorify Himself through taking the Gospel to every tribe, tongue and nation.  Once that work is completed, He will return (Matt 24.14).  Jesus gave final instructions as He was leaving the Earth, and they were simply:  Go and make disciples of all nations (Matt 28.18-20).  That is the work which God is about, and that is the work which we should be about – which we must be about if we want to be obedient to God.

After Jesus had raised from the dead, He spent forty days with his disciples and others, teaching them about the Kingdom of God.  Before He left to go back to Heaven, the disciples asked Him if it was now that He would take over the world, if it was the end.

He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”

– Acts 1.7-8

Jesus told the disciples that they would be His witnesses around the world.  As He was giving this instruction, however, Jesus told them to stay in Jerusalem and wait for the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, “Which,” He said, “you heard of from Me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

– Acts 4.1-5

So the disciples had followed Jesus, watched Him be killed and then witnessed Him as resurrected.  For forty days Jesus taught them intensively on the Kingdom of God and He told them to stay put in Jerusalem until they received the Holy Spirit, but after receiving the Spirit they were commissioned to take the Gospel to the ends of the Earth.  Acts then accounts the coming of the Spirit and the beginning of the movement there in Jerusalem.  Thousands of people were coming to faith every time there was a mighty work and preaching.  The disciples were being put in jail.  Stephen was stoned to death.  And the Church was multiplying.  But everyone was still in Jerusalem, preaching to the Jews.  And Jesus had been very clear with His instructions.  So what happened?

Saul was in hearty agreement with putting [Stephen] to death. And on that day a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.  Some devout men buried Stephen, and made loud lamentation over him.  But Saul began ravaging the church, entering house after house, and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison.  Therefore, those who had been scattered went about preaching the word.  Philip went down to the city of Samaria and began proclaiming Christ to them.

– Acts 8.1-5

Jesus instructed his followers that they would be His witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria.  When the Church did not take the initiative to get out and go, God raised up a great persecution that caused the believers to scatter.  And to where did they scatter?  Judea and Samaria (8.1)  God made a way.  He made the way.  He moved people in mass numbers throughout the known world, and they went around proclaiming the Good News!

Would you consider it good news?  If you were living your life, working your job, being a comfortable, happy American who went to Church on Sundays and the city rose up against your church and you had to flee for your life with nothing but whatever you could squeeze in your car, would you flee to the next state and preach the Gospel?  If Jesus cost you your job, your house, your family, your livelihood, would He still be good news?  He was to the believers in the first generation of the Church.

Is your Church working towards fulfilling the Great Commission?  Has God commanded you and yours to do something?  He will make it happen.  He will cause situations to bring it about, one way or another.   Our good, which God is causing, is not necessarily that we have a job, that we have healthy children, or a nice house.  It is not necessarily that we get what we want.  Our good is joy, eternally, with and in Him.  So let’s get moving before He has to disperse us.

We must obey God rather than men.

evangelism

Often times we consider obedience as blatant morality.  We have pep rallies in our churches and small groups, banding together under the motto:  “We obey God and not man” and part of that obedience is submitting to the authorities that God has put in place over us (1 Peter 2.13).  We imagine the day that speaking about Jesus will be against the Law, but all-in-all we live comfortably because the government does not ask us to do anything that goes against what God forbids, or forbid us from doing anything that God commands.

Or does it?

The separation of Church and state was instituted because of the power that the Roman Catholic Church held in the Roman Empire and throughout much of Europe.  The United States was founded (in part) so that people could have freedom of religion and escape the dominion that was un-Biblical.  This is a good thing.  We, as Christians, understand that salvation comes by faith.  We cannot force someone to have faith, and we know that it is God alone who gives faith.  So, if we had a government that attempted to force faith on someone, it would go against the commands of Jesus.  We preach the Gospel, and God causes the growth (1 Cor 3.6-7).

There are issues that are arising which are slowly infringing on Biblical commands, like abortion and birth control.  The government does not force us to have abortions or to use birth control which might go against our conscience, however.  It is attempting to make room for a variation of beliefs within our society and (I believe wrongly) assuming that the option is mankind’s right, and Christians must make provision for it.

But consider with me the primary command that Jesus has given us and the laxity with which Christians approach it.

And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.  Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

– Matt 28.18-20

Jesus’ final words were, “Go and make disciples”.  The disciples themselves prayed continually for boldness to preach the Gospel.  Everywhere they went they were talking about Jesus and following Him.  Everywhere they went people were coming to faith because they shared the Gospel and showed signs and wonders to back it up.  The Holy Spirit even supernaturally moved Phillip to meet a man on the side of the road to share the Gospel, and after he baptized him, took Phillip back.  Jesus said do it, and they did it.

We, however, by-and-large, are not doing it.  We have been indoctrinated that religion is not appropriate for the workplace, so we hope that our outstanding morality and happy faces will be enough.  We want people to think, “There is something different about him”, and leave it up to the observer to ask.  We are not going and making disciples, we are staying and waiting for the lost to try to be found.

And we are completely comfortable doing so.

In fact, we think it is the right thing to do!  We do not want to force our thoughts on someone else, we do not want to try to answer a question that someone is not asking, we just want to be a listening ear and only say something if someone asks.  And when someone asks, we are afraid that we do not know the right answer, so we chicken out.

The disciples went out and preached Jesus.  They were arrested and thrown in jail.  Then the Holy Spirit took them out of jail, without the guards knowing, and the next morning they went to the temple and started preaching and teaching again!  They did not go into hiding.  Then they were arrested again, and beaten.  They went back out preaching more, and even rejoiced that they got to suffer a portion of what Jesus had to endure.

But yet we go in to work and the moment Jesus crosses our minds, we squash the thought because we might get fired for talking about Jesus.

I challenge you today to consider Jesus’ final words.  Go and make disciples.  Everywhere, all the time.  Not just at church, not just in your free time, all the time.  And take the position:

“We must obey God rather than men.”

– Acts 5.29

Is your job, security, or position more important than obeying God?  You must do your job and preform your duties as unto the Lord, but we have been commanded to preach the Gospel always.  With our words.  Actions are not the Gospel, the story of Jesus is the Gospel.  God has promised to meet all of our needs and to take care of us, and if it so be that we lose our jobs because of Jesus, He will take care of us.